Israel’s first Olympic baseball team is led by an All-Star and the sport’s second-oldest player

2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifer 1- Game 1, South Africa vs. Israel
Getty Images

The Israeli baseball team will make its Olympic debut later this month, headlined by four-time All-Star Ian Kinsler.

He is one of eight players on the 24-man team with Major League Baseball experience.

The 39-year-old, who made his All-Star appearances between 2008 and 2014, won the 2018 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. He also was on the U.S. team that won the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Kinsler, whose father is Jewish, became an Israeli citizen in March 2020; he is currently second baseman for the ALPB Long Island Ducks and a front-office advisor for the San Diego Padres.

Israel became a phenom on the international baseball stage in 2017. Ranked 41st in the world, the team finished sixth at its first World Baseball Classic appearance, then just missed the medal stand at its inaugural European Championships in 2019.

Israel then went on to take down the top-three teams from that event en route to winning the Africa/Europe Olympic qualifying tournament in September 2020.

This summer marks baseball’s sixth time on the Olympic program, though first since 2008, and is the first time Israel has qualified.

While Kinsler is the player with the most professional experience, it is pitcher Shlomo Lipetz who will likely be considered the leader of the team. The 42-year-old considers himself part of Israel’s first generation of baseball players and, born and raised in Tel Aviv, has helped build the national team program.

Only one Olympic baseball player has been older than Lipetz: Alan Phillips, who represented South Africa at age 44 in 2000.

In addition to his baseball career, Lipetz is currently the vice president of programming at New York’s City Winery.

Kinsler is joined in the infield by Scott Burcham, Ty Kelly, Zack Penprase and Danny Valencia.

Blake Gailen, Mitch Glaser, Assaf Lowengart and Robb Paller will man the outfield.

The catchers are Tal Erel, Ryan Lavarnway and Nick Rickles, and the pitching staff includes Jeremy Bleich, Jonathan DeMarte, Jake Fishman, Alex Katz, Jared Lakind, Alon Leichman, Lipetz, Jon Moscot, Joey Wegman, Ben Wanger, Zack Weiss and Josh Zeid.

Bleich, Kelly, Kinsler, Lavarnway, Moscot, Valencia, Weiss and Zeid have all played in the MLB.

Ten of the players represented Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Team Israel is coached by Eric Holtz, who has managed the national team since late 2017.

Olympic baseball play begins Wednesday, July 28. Israel plays South Korea on July 29 and the U.S. July 30 in Group B.

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